The Benefits for Health research shows the complicated relationship between health and welfare benefits for people who are homeless – making it difficult for people to move out of homelessness.
The research, carried out between 2019-2020 by Groundswell was funded by Trust for London. Key findings demonstrate that:
- Poor health and issues with benefits are causes of homelessness and are continued challenges for people experiencing homelessness
- Challenges in navigating the benefits system were common, and often ill-health or disability was a cause or contributing factor that further embedded these issues
- Welfare challenges had a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness
- Despite high needs, challenges in accessing healthcare were common among participants and were often exacerbated by challenges with benefits
- The benefits and health systems could be working in a more integrated way for the benefit of the health of people who are homeless
If you don’t want to read, below you can listen to a summary of the findings, real stories and experiences read by the people who led the research. This podcast is also available on sites including Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Overcast.
Read the Benefits for Health research report
Read the Executive Summary
Mo [not his real name] has been homeless for more than 2 years – during this time he has been rough sleeping, squatting, living in refuges and bed and breakfasts. When we met him, he was living in someone else council house. He told us that not long after he became homeless, he was sanctioned for 26 weeks after a serious operation and a stay in hospital. There had been a mix up between the Jobcentre and GP, and the Jobcentre was not informed about his situation. He was not well enough to go to the Jobcentre after the operation to sort out the problem…he told us that this situation with his benefits made him suicidal.
The study, conducted by Groundswell, was led by researchers with experience of homelessness using a peer research methodology. The research engaged 242 people who are currently experiencing homelessness in London, whose stories were collected using focus groups, case studies and one-to-one survey-based interviews. Find out more about our research process.
Our researchers have created an action guide is to help people experiencing homelessness and the staff that support them to make the most from benefits and related support to improve their health, wellbeing and ultimately help them move out of homelessness. View and download the action guide.
Literature, policy and learning
For context we have written a short document outlining the current homelessness picture; the relationship between homelessness and poor health and existing literature on homelessness and the welfare system. Read the document here.
What’s going to happen with the research?
Using the insight from the research we are coproducing initiatives for change. We aim to develop solutions that improve access and maintenance of welfare benefits for people experiencing homelessness, to ensure they don’t fall through the cracks. These initiatives for change will be based on the following recommendations highlighted in the report:
- The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Jobcentre Plus should ensure that claimants who are experiencing homelessness are on the right benefits and have appropriate easements in place
- Measures should be taken to improve the quality of service provided by the DWP and Jobcentre Plus to better support people experiencing homelessness
- National government should ensure that benefits are ample to be able to support the health and wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness and wider society. Benefits should cover the cost of living
- Health and social care workers need to be better informed of the rights and entitlements of people who are experiencing homelessness around benefit entitlements and access to healthcare
- The Ministry of Housing, Community and Local Government and the Department of Work and Pensions should ensure that data is captured on benefits usage for people experiencing homelessness
We have highlighted specific steps that can be taken to work towards achieving each recommendation, they are highlighted in the Executive Summary.